Miami - Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn had to overcome an
abbreviated Wednesday practice round to fire a five-under-par 67 and grab a
share of the opening round lead at the rain-hit US Women's Open on Thursday.
Ariya set the early pace in the morning session, mastering
the sodden conditions to end the day in a three-way tie atop the leaderboard
with Australia's Sarah Jane Smith and South Korea's Lee Jeong-eun6.
Call it blind luck, or whatever you want, but Ariya got off
to an impressive start at the major championship despite not being able to
practice on the front nine at all ahead of Thursday's first round because her
clubs didn't arrive with her flight.
"My golf bag didn't come on Monday," said Ariya,
who like the rest of the field also saw practice rounds limited by heavy rain
"I played only nine holes yesterday. I played the back
nine so it was tough for me today because I didn't see the front .... I pretty
much trust my caddie. I know he is going to do a good job so I can trust
The rain at Alabama's Shoal Creek course gave way to
sunshine for the start of the first round.
Ariya, fresh from a superb victory at the LPGA Kingsmill
Championship two weeks ago, took advantage to post five birdies and an eagle
with two bogeys.
The 22-year-old from Bangkok maintained the conditions at
Shoal Creek were more challenging than they appeared after the rain.
"The course is playing pretty tough, and some holes
pretty long," she said.
"It's pretty wet and it's pretty hard to have like good
distance, second shot to the green."
Ariya said her recent run of form was the result of
intensive work on her short game.
On Thursday, Ariya hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and
tallied only 28 putts across 18 holes.
"My game has been improving every week because I work
so hard with my short game," said Ariya, who won five times in 2016.
"The last few months I have been playing pretty good."
Ariya is not looking too far ahead however. "I'm not
going to think about the outcome," she said. "I'm not going to think
about winning the tournament."
Ariya is tied with Smith and Lee while another trio of
Smith fired an eagle and five birdies with two bogeys to
join the leading group. Lee, who carries the number "6" alongside her
name to distinguish her from five other Korean golfers who share the same name,
had five birdies without a bogey.
The trio were two shots in front of former US Open winner
Michelle Wie, 18-year-old amateur Linn Grant of Sweden and American Danielle
Wie's round included back-to-back birdies on her 11th and 12th
holes, part of an error-free back nine display.
The 28-year-old from Hawaii said she was surprised at the
condition of the course following the deluge earlier this week.
"It's mind-blowing how great the golf course is,"
she said. "The greens staff, they've been working day and night trying to
get this golf course ready and have done an amazing job."
World number one Park In-bee headed a group on 12 players on
70 that also included Australia's Su Oh, American Nelly Korda and Denmark's
"Today was a good putting day," said seven-time
major championship winner Park. "The golf course was actually much better
than I expected.
"You are going to get some mud balls around this golf
course. I got a couple that was pretty bad and it hooked into trees and stuff
like that. Everybody is in the same boat."
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the US Women's Open Golf Championship in Shoal Creek, Alabama (USA unless noted, a-denotes amateur, par 72):
67 - Ariya Jutanugarn (THA), Sarah Jane Smith (AUS), Lee Jeong-eun6 (KOR)
69 - Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, a-Linn Grant (SWE)
70 - a-Patty Tavatanakit (THA), Mel Reid (ENG), Luna Sobron Galmes (ESP), a-Kristen Gillman, Emily Kristine Pedersen (DEN), Kim Hyo-joo (KOR), Madelene Sagstrom (SWE), Nelly Korda, Kim Sei-young (KOR), Park In-bee (KOR), Kim Ji-hyun (KOR), Su Oh (AUS)
71 - Lindy Duncan, Lexi Thompson, Hsu Wei-Ling (TPE), Chella Choi (KOR), Lydia Ko (NZL), Choi Hye-jin (KOR)
72 - Casey Danielson, Sophie Walker (ENG), a-Elizabeth Wang, Wichanee Meechai (THA), Mo Martin, Jennifer Song, Minjee Lee (AUS), a-Albane Valenzuela (SUI), a-Hailee Cooper, Olafia Kristinsdottir (ISL), Jane Park, Kim In-kyung (KOR), Jenny Shin, Georgia Hall (ENG), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (ENG), Caroline Masson (GER), a-Lucy Li, Megan Khang, a-Gina Kim